Thursday, September 4, 2014

Window on Eurasia: A Common Post-Soviet Space Doesn’t Exist Because a Common Soviet One Never Did, Moscow Sociologist Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, September 4 -- Many Soviet and Western analysts treated the Soviet space as something which was more unified than in fact was the case and thus failed to predict that it would disintegrate as it did. And even now, many of them assume that “a common post-Soviet space” exists, but that is not the case either, according to a senior Moscow sociologist.


            In a comment posted online this week, Oleg Yanitsky, a scholar at the Moscow Institute of Sociology, says that “a military-economic or military-bureaucratic” formation did exist in Soviet times; but, despite a propagandistic cover, it was riven by differences and ultimately fell apart despite the expectations of many that it would not (


            Those who realized how divided it was had little trouble in predicting the end of this space. Yanitsky cites the Leningrad sociologist A. Alekseyev who “on the basis of a survey he conducted at the end of the 1970s predicted the time of the end of the USSR down to the month,” something “the powerful analytic machine of Western sociology and political science did not.”


            The Soviet experience invoked as the foundation for a common post-Soviet space as not politically, culturally or “what is more” morally united, Yanitsky says.  And since 1989-1991, this space has become even more diverse, reflecting the underlying civilizational differences of its supposed component parts.


            “One must not put on one level ‘the Baltic republics,’ Russia … and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia.”  The first have been integrated into Europe in a forceful fashion, he continues. The second has only been superficially attracted to that world, and the third is moving in an entirely different direction.


            The sanctions the US and the EU have imposed against Russia have led some analysts in both Russia and the West to suggest that there is “a single European space” standing against “a post-Soviet space,” but in fact, Yanitsky argues, this shows why those terms are inappropriate: this action has highlighted differences within these two more than their similarities.


That is not to say that they cannot be compared: the two “spaces” have similarities, but their similarities are based on the divisions within them as much as on their supposed commonalities. In both, there are donors and recipients, and these have different interests, even if they share some common ones at the same time.

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